Courtesy of Le Sereno
Best for The Scene
Glamorous, star-studded, and ultra-exclusive, St. Bart’s manages to keep the masses away, despite the fact that it’s just 15 miles (a 10-minute flight) from touristy St. Martin.
The compact island—one of the smallest in the Caribbean, at eight square miles—is simple to navigate. You can easily drive from one end to the other in less than 30 minutes. Rent a car: taxis cost a fortune.
Worth the Splurge
What the rooms at the Hôtel Saint-Barth Isle de France (Baie des Flamands; 800/810-4691 or 590-590/275-666; isle-de-france.com; doubles from $1,103) lack in size they make up for in old-world charms.
The biggest hotel news in recent years was the opening of the sleek Le Sereno (Grand Cul-de-Sac; 590-590/298-300; lesereno.com; doubles from $961), designed by Christian Liaigre, which raised the bar on St. Bart’s.
The oldest property on the island, Eden Rock (Baie de St. Jean; 877/563-7105 or 590-590/297-994; edenrockhotel.com; doubles from $940, including breakfast), was recently given a major overhaul and added a new "James Suite," with its own private pool.
There aren’t many bargains to be found on St. Bart’s, but the Salines Garden Cottages (Salines; 590-590/510-444; salinesgarden.com; doubles from $200) are a rare exception. The five simple rooms, near the Anse de Grand Salines, are built around a small plunge pool and named after destinations around the globe (Waikiki, Cap Ferret), with décor to match.
St. Bart’s is not for the weak of wallet when it comes to dining out (this is the home of the $100 lunch)‚ nor is it a place that welcomes drop-in guests, so be sure to make reservations well in advance—especially at Maya’s Restaurant (Anse Public, Gustavia; 590-590/277-573; dinner for two $100), where it’s more about the scene than the food. At the laid-back Eddy’s (Rue du Centenaire, Gustavia; 590-590/275-417; dinner for two $99), owner Eddy Stackelborough greets every guest. Don’t miss the papaya salad or the assiette cru of market-fresh fish. Overlooking Shell Beach, Do Brazil (590-590/290-666; lunch for two $114) serves Asian-inflected dishes like lemongrass shrimp and chicken tempura.
It’s nothing to look at, with its Christmas-tree lights strung above wooden picnic tables, but the Wishing Well Chez Rolande (Flamands; 590-590/275-142; dinner for two $52) is the place for authentic Creole goat stew and conch fritters.
Top Beach Regulars
Argue over which of the island’s beaches takes top billing, but our pick is Anse des Flamands, with its soft sand, clear water, and lunch spots like La Langouste (590-590/276-361; lunch for two $130), which specializes in grilled lobster.
Head to the hilltop in Columbier for the 30-minute walk down to the secluded Anse du Grand Columbier, a beach that’s accessible only by foot (or by boat). Less adventurous types might want to take the easier—and more scenic—path that starts past the end of Flamands beach, near the Auberge de la Petite Anse hotel, and rounds the edge of a rocky promontory.
Where to Shop
The town of Gustavia is lined with shops. A few of our favorites include Mia Zia (Rue du Roi Oscar II, Gustavia; 590-590/275-548), which carries bold pink tops and white Turkish towels edged with multicolored pom-poms. You can find everything from 150-year-old wooden Buddhas to silk pillows from India at The House (Rue du Général de Gaulle, Gustavia; 590-590/278-804). The owners of M’Bolo (Rue du Général de Gaulle, Gustavia; 590-590/279-054), a housewares shop that stocks Laguiole knives, shell-encrusted mirrors, and local spices, also brew their own flavored rums.
The little village of Corossol, on the west coast, is a taste of old St. Bart’s. At Au Regal (Corossol; 590-590/278-526), fishermen gather in the afternoon over pastis. At the scruffy Inter Oceans Museum (Corossol; 590-590/276-297; admission $4 per person), check out the shells from around the world, collected by a wizened old man who claims he hasn’t found anything on St. Bart’s since tourism took off in the 1970’s.